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Saturday, September 30, 2006 3 comments

New Toys

Wednesday, IT figured out what the last problem was setting up my MacBook Pro and brought it over. Sweeeeeet. I spent part of yesterday and today installing the other software I need and formatted my first documents on it this morning.

How much faster is it than my old work computer? I guesstimate about 15 times faster, and maybe 5 times faster than my iBook. I got a similar performance improvement switching from FrameMaker to groff. So the documentation suite that first got transformed out of Frame, four books totalling 750 pages, required half a day to create PDFs using Frame on the old 300MHz G3. Now it takes less than a minute. There is no longer any pain associated with accommodating last-minutes additions or changes — I can basically churn out a new version at a moment’s notice.

I told my boss, and he said, “You can get a lot more done now!” I said, “I love the smell of productivity in the morning. It smell like… slacking in the afternoon.” He thought that was pretty funny.

I was going to get a similar laptop for myself, but Mrs. Fetched confiscated the money I’d squirreled away for the purchase to pay for her cameras. And now she thinks she’s going to confiscate my Saturday for the chicken houses. I want to take my mountain bike to Nimblewill and ride around instead, but it occurs to me that I don’t have a car at the moment, thanks to The Boy. So I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2006 1 comment


The Boy has probably borrowed my car for the last time. He told me he would be home from band practice by 11, and I told him that if he wasn’t home by then, don’t bother asking again.

So about 9:30 last night, we got the call: he’s in the ditch, nobody’s hurt but can we get there quick? Dammit. He was barely able to give us directions (communication has been a problem with him for some time), so we jumped into Barge Vader and drove the way he told us until we saw blue lights. I mean, he couldn’t even tell us if he was on the left or right side of the road. When you’re a kid, a car wreck without injuries is the worst kind: without a little blood to evoke parental sympathy and concern, you have nothing to shield you from parental wrath. Other Brother found that one out when he rolled a Gremlin back in 70-something — after the doctor said he was OK, just some bruises and scrapes, Mom & Dad jumped on him.

Anyway, back here in 2006: The Boy was sufficiently shook up by having put the car he loves into a ditch, that he was totally straight with the cop. Band practice wrapped up about 9:00, so he zipped down to visit a friend of his. The friend found his dad’s rum, and they split a shot before deciding they had to go to a store. Away they went, and The Boy has always had a lead foot (what he does to the gas mileage is like siphoning out a gallon of gas and pouring it on the ground). So when he looked away from the road and got into the grass, at 95 mph, his friend panicked and grabbed at whatever he could — which happened to be the emergency brake. He locked up the back wheels, and they crossed the road, took out two mailboxes, and ended up in the ditch next to someone’s driveway — about four feet from a telephone pole.

The cop told it like it was: “One drink puts you over the limit for under-21. I could write you up for DUI, reckless driving, and underage possession. You’d go to jail for any of those,” and proceeded to write him up for… too fast for conditions. The car wasn’t so lucky; I think I used up the last of its luck with the deer a couple of weeks ago. It was hard to see what kind of damage was done in the dark, but both the front and back bumpers were less than intact (not sure how he managed to hose the back bumper) and the hood was bent up a little. The radiator is also broken, which isn’t surprising (it has been the primary source of trouble all along). If the front end isn’t bent up, it might be repairable.

But if this is the kick in the head that The Boy needed to get his act together (and it might have been), I won’t mind losing a car. On the other hand, cheap reliable cars that get 40mpg are hard to come by; teenagers with attitude are a dime a dozen.

Radio FAR Manor, where the hits just keep a-comin’.

Monday, September 25, 2006 2 comments

The Accusations Fly

My first day back at work went mostly quietly. The IT peeps are holding onto my new computer, claiming they can’t get Sametime (a Lotus proprietary chat client) to work; I figure they’re looking for an excuse to not let it go because the MacBook Pro is a far cooler machine than what they usually have to deal with. Three meetings, which is four too many, and catching up my email pretty much did for my day. It wasn’t so quiet around FAR Manor.

First, M.A.E. went into the local Dollar General to get some deodorant. Pretty simple: go in, grab your brand, pay for it, leave. Except that the cashier asked her to come back in as she was halfway out the door. She asked M.A.E. some dumb question, then called her back in when she started out and accused her of shoplifting something cheap.

M.A.E., like ’most anyone would be, was offended. She shucked her jacket and said, “Pat me down if you want. But I didn’t steal anything. I have a job.” The manager checked her over and let her go. I suspect that M.A.E. will be getting her deodorant at Fred’s (a store, not Solar’s neighbor’s cat) from now on.

It gets “better.” Some cops came to the door and started asking about the whereabouts of The Boy. Seems that some buttmunch fingered him and Cousin Splat for defacing the church last year, and the cops fell all over themselves to believe it. The case is solved! So they think. As they’re getting ready to leave, here comes The Boy walking up the driveway, getting dropped off from work. They immediately start browbeating him with crap like, “we know you did it, you might as well own up to it,” (if they knew, why didn’t they just arrest him? freekin’ fishing expedition is what it was) and “you seem pretty nervous.”

The Boy answered the first one as well as could be expected: “I’m going to mess up my own church?” I don’t know how he answered the second one, but I would probably have said something like, “yeah, getting rousted by crooked cops always gets me nervous.” They got about as far with Cousin Splat as they did with The Boy, and the latter can be a cool customer when he wants. (For the record: The Boy is an expert liar, but I don’t think he or Splat defaced the church door. He might know who did it, but that’s it.)

After a rather upsetting experience, Splat and The Boy went to talk to the preacher. As for Mrs. Fetched, she has decided to not vote to re-elect the sheriff this time or ever again. It’s only taken him two terms since becoming a Republican to get corrupt, better than average.

Things didn’t take long to get back to normal. :-P

Sunday, September 24, 2006 No comments

Vacation, by the numbers

Not the way I would prefer to go… even back to FAR Manor.

Come back later and check below this post — I’ll be backdating posts I started over the week and adding pictures here and there.

Days not in the office (including weekends): 15
Number of calls from co-workers: 2
Percentage of times they already had what they were asking me for: 100
Miles travelled (by car, approx.): 1300
Miles travelled (by bicycle, approx.): 40
Number of gas stops: 4
Best price for gas: $2.02, Lake Park GA
Amount of beer consumed: (I lost count)
Weight gained (pounds): MINUS 5 (yeah, I lost weight, woo hoo!)
Birthdays celebrated: 1
Age of birthday girl: 70
Home theater setups installed: 1
Home-improvement projects started: 2
Number of strips needed to finish the hallway: 7
Days of rain (including today): 2
Nights of rain: 4
Days without Internet access: 10
Age of Solar’s cat: 19
Stories started: 3
Hooters T-shirts bought for Daughter Dearest: 1
Bottles of dressing bought at a tourist trap pecan outlet for Mrs. Fetched: 5

Thursday, September 21, 2006 No comments

On the Pinellas Trail

Mom’s tennis match went about twice as long as she expected, so she wasn’t really up for a ride. I filled a couple of water bottles this time, especially since it was early afternoon, and drove to a park near the Pinellas Trail. There I switched from motorized to self-propelled transportation, jumped onto the trail, and headed south.

This area in general is more bike-friendly than most of Planet Georgia, although that’s changing quickly. There are bike trails on my planet — some, like Silver Comet, are quite a bit longer than Pinellas, and bike lanes are starting to make a welcome appearance along suburban highways. The area around FAR Manor is even getting a lot of attention from road cycling clubs these days, and I live only a few miles from some great mountain bike trails (more on both some other time). What attracts me to the Pinellas Trail is: 1) I’m not working when I’m nearby, 2) I only have to drive a couple of miles from where I’m staying to reach it, 3) If Mom or Solar aren’t doing anything else, I can have some company.

Yes, that’s a bike shop off the side there. Can you think of a better location? For a clever slogan, click the picture to get the full-size version and look at the sign at the top left.

This part of Florida is pretty flat — if you want hills, you pretty much have to make them yourself. Fortunately(?), there’s a good reason to make some hills: some of the main drags are four to eight lanes wide and busy all the time. Therefore, the occasional overpass adds a little more resistance than the occasional headwind or off-road tires provide. But just a little. The climbs that top out at FAR Manor are longer and about as steep. My mountain bike is geared for hills and off-road duty, so I just put it in the middle gears and rolled on up. Most everywhere else, you can select a (high) gear you’re comfortable with and spin the miles away. If you’re in better shape than I am, you could probably ride from one end to the other (and back) in a few hours.

The south end of the Cross Bayou bridge, looking back north. I rode just a little farther than this, to the top of the Park St./Bay Pines overpass, before turning around and going back. What with having to double back at one point and get a picture I forgot, I covered about 18 miles total.

At Solar’s

For reasons having little to do with the guest beds, I’ve again started waking up at night since I’ve been down here. Part of it is the less-familiar environment — to say Pinellas County FL has a far higher population density than the part of Planet Georgia surrounding FAR Manor doesn’t do justice to the contrast. Maybe this will help: at FAR Manor, I can stand on the roof and not see anyone else’s house, even if I try. On the patio behind Solar’s house, I need only turn my head to clearly see four houses and a fifth behind some foliage. If I were to climb onto the roof, I could probably see a dozen or more. But that’s nothing: Mom’s porch is on the third floor and faces the Intracoastal, and you can see a half-mile stretch of totally-developed barrier island from there.

But here, the morning’s soundtrack is surprisingly dominated by nature at the moment: jays and other birds screeching and chattering; a soft breeze stirring leaves. Humanity provides a counterpoint, occasionally coming to the fore: a train honking a few blocks away, a siren. Traffic hums in the background, sometimes blending with the wind whisper. An air conditioner buzzes to life, even at 10 a.m. Saws and other power tools make their presence known, but not nearly as often as I would expect — something is always under construction here, and you want to do most of your work in the morning before the heat gets overbearing.

Looking around, one is reminded that not all wildlife finds it difficult to live around people — squirrels and many birds actually thrive in our presence, not to mention bugs — and plants are even more aggressive here than on Planet Georgia. Some invasive species like the Brazilian Pepper spread here like kudzu does at home. Tall trees have half the back yard in full shade now, and the neighbor’s trees provide evening relief. A cedar fence surrounds the back yard, providing privacy and a nice walkway for lizards. The grass is still getting established, but it looks better every time I come down. Semi-wild plants surround the trees and poke through the fence, reminding me how quickly nature would re-take this territory were humans to retreat. Considering that the previous owner, in Solar’s words, “used it as his private landfill,” the back yard is thriving.

Solar bought the house as a fixer-upper and really fixed it up, with the help of Mom and some of his friends. It’s small, but a single guy really doesn’t need more than this. He even re-converted the garage back into a garage, although it’s still climate-controlled and he often leaves the door open so the cat can come in. He should get some before-and-after pictures up where people can see them. Indeed, he enjoyed the fruits of his labor so much that he bought the house next door and (again, with help) flipped it. Not too much flipping going on these days, though; the housing market here has cooled off a bit. Interesting to think that when this house was built 40-odd years ago, that it was about the average size for a family of four.

Mom’s birthday was yesterday — happy milestone, Mom! — and we celebrated here. Solar grilled salmon, and it was fantastic. He brushed on a marinade of honey, mayo, and olive oil and let it sit for about an hour, then we spread on some pesto (basil from yours truly) and grilled the fish on a cedar plank — similar in principle to hickory chips, I’d just not heard about it before. Wicked Stepfather and Solar’s girlfriend are both not fish people, so she got chicken and he got steak. Salad and asparagus made up the side dishes. Ice cream cake with not nearly enough candles, and a successfully terrible rendition of “Happy Birthday,” was the dessert.

Speaking of Mom, I’m waiting on her to come by — we’re supposed to take a bike ride. Hearing a car door, I look out front. Mom’s not here, but Fred has come by. He’s a humongous orange and white cat with a busted tail (severed nerve). The tag on his collar says he belongs to a particular neighbor, but in another way the entire neighborhood belongs to him. Solar keeps a little container of kitty treats out front, where he has a smoking bench in front of the window sill, so this is Fred’s second home. In a lot of ways, Fred is many things that Newt (Solar’s cat) isn’t — Fred is good-natured, loves attention, has short hair, and (like I said) big. Newt has gotten cranky in her old age, but that’s actually an improvement… when she was younger and had enough energy to care, she had a nasty temper (although she was actually pleasant to be around at Christmas). Now she’s just a cranky old long-hair cat who isn’t eating much, although she tried to munch a lizard and Solar wouldn’t let her.

Looks like lunch and a solo bike ride are on tap for the afternoon.

Monday, September 18, 2006 1 comment

Escape from FAR Manor! Part II

While the northern part of Planet Georgia is starting to slip (with a sigh of relief) into fall, it’s still summer in points south. This became apparent as I got through Atlanta (contending with stadium traffic, at least the Falcons won), and I spent a few hours trying to direct some of the breeze into the car to cool things off. Afternoon wore on to evening, and the sun finally got low enough that trees along the side of the road provided some shade. Clouds and even a little rain cooled things off further.

The trip from FAR Manor to my mom’’s place takes 8-9 hours when I’’m by myself, or 10 with passengers (or more if there’s holiday traffic). I don’’t drive any faster, it’s just that we make more stops. On my own, I stop twice: once at a rest area, once for a combined gas & food break. My mountain bike rode on the back, where it put up enough wind resistance to affect the gas mileage. It’s a boring drive, and I won’’t dwell on it further.

One thing about September here is that the evening sun lines up almost perfectly with the east-west roads... so if you’’re heading west, you need good sunglasses. But again, the clouds came to the rescue, and I got in without any trouble.

This morning, I decided to give both myself and the mountain bike a good workout. I rode up to Sand Key Park, about a 15-mile round trip, and waded into the Gulf. It’’s still pretty warm, but not the warmest I’’ve ever seen (that would be Biloxi, MS, in 1980). Gulf Blvd. has bike lanes on both sides of the road (mostly), and is flat compared to Planet Georgia, where level roads are the exception. But had I been thinking, I would have ridden south instead of north: a tailwind going out means a headwind coming back. I also didn’’t think to bring water, which meant I spent $2 for a bottle of Gatorade at the park’s vending machines. Pricey to be sure; but I figured $1 for the fluid and $1 for the bottle, and refilled it from the drinking fountain. Shake it up to get the chlorine to fizz out, and it was fine. I also soaked my shirt in the shower thing as two-wheeled air conditioning before riding back.

I was pretty ripe by the time I got back; into the shower I went while Mom fixed a sandwich for lunch. And that’’s been my day so far. At least I can slack on the exercise the rest of the day and tomorrow with a clear conscience.

Saturday, September 16, 2006 3 comments

Floored (or, the anti-weekend) [UPDATED]

I forgot to mention why there are 20kg weights on the floor, and slipped in another comment here & there.

We ended up checking out Friday. I had Mrs. Fetched agreeing to stay through the weekend, then The Boy started flaking out and generally becoming insufferable. The phone calls started coming with uncomfortable frequency (I now know what not to take next year… smellphones). Seems like our corner of the county just comes apart if we’re not there. Mrs. Fetched promised that we would take the entire week next year, and the chicken houses wouldn’t get in the way. I’ve had her reassurances, several related to buying FAR Manor not the least of them, not pan out far too often to put much stock in that. But we’ll see.

My boss called again on Friday morning, as we were packing up, with some more issues — if I’m so indispensable that I have to be online all through vacation, they should give me a title and salary to match. Either that, or hire me some help.

Home and unpacked, Mrs. Fetched got annoyed anew at the white carpet covering much of the house. With us both home, chicken houses not an issue for a little while, she decided that we should try putting down the hardwood floor in the hallway. We called our friends for advice — he did all kinds of construction work before he fell off a roof and broke his neck a while back. He can walk with support, and at least advise on construction projects, nowadays. Not only does he have the know-how, he has the tools. We spent much of Friday evening ripping up the mark of insanity (white carpet), gathering material and cutting the jambs in the hallway (six doors in 18 feet, GAFB) so the new flooring could be tucked under.

This morning, up dim & early to return the jamb saw to Home Despot and pick up the advisor. It took us a couple of hours to get as far as you see here. On a couple of occasions, he got down on the floor and helped — one of the few times since he had his accident that he’s done any construction work. I was concerned for him, but realized he needed to do it — he lasted about 10 minutes before he got to hurting too much though. Working through the day, me measuring and Mrs. Fetched cutting pieces, making sure they fit into place, laying down glue and finally pushing the pieces into each other and tapping them in. We got over halfway through before giving out.

Part of the slowdown is the nature of the flooring underneath. Check the first pic again: there’s plywood running up the center of the hallway, but that lighter stuff to the right of the hammer is crappy particle board. Not only is it particle board, it’s mostly higher than the plywood. I took a chisel to what you see there to even it up (the only good thing about particle board is that it chisels down well), but there’s a definite slope to the floor, left downhill, near the end of the hall. That’s why you see two 20kg weights there: it’s pushing the floorboards into the glue. As we toiled away, Mrs. Fetched said on several occasions that Leon (the guy who originally built the house that has become FAR Manor) was notorious for cutting corners. She knew this all along, and still wanted to buy this house?

Mrs. Fetched is confident that she can finish the job with a little help from The Boy. Good thing, because I’m off to Florida tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 No comments

Escape from FAR Manor! (day 6, Mrs. Fetched escapes)

Mrs. Fetched has joined me here in the refuge. As I am typing this, she is fast asleep in the bedroom after being up all night supervising the chicken removal. We actually left FAR Manor a little earlier than I’d expected, but naturally ended up getting here a little later than I’d expected too. Stop for lunch, grab a few more groceries, take care of the car insurance (and the lady was in a gabby mood)… it adds up quick. The rain pouring down from yesterday evening until about two hours ago didn’t exactly speed us along, either.

I didn’t get the video of the chicken catching machine like I’d hoped. Turns out the cat porch was infested and Sprite & Aries were totally flea-bagged. I ended up running into town to grab a fogger and arranging an overnight stay with an animal boarder who would also flea-dip the little darlings. The cats were not happy about getting stuffed into a carrier — how I managed to do it without getting my arms shredded can only be explained by Divine Intervention — and were even less happy about sharing a room with several loud yappy dogs, even if they were all in separate cages.

While I waited for Mrs. Fetched to get ready, I finished the tub-caulking job I’d started last night. I’d already taken care of the grout — most of the grout along the tub was loose, but some had to be chiseled out — and ran the caulk. This morning, I vacuumed the chunks of old grout out of the tub and caulked over a couple of areas that were a little thin. That should keep the water where it’s supposed to be, anyway.

One good thing about being home yesterday: the Battery Fairy brought some fresh juice for my iBook. It’s nice to have a mobile laptop again. I dutifully boxed up the dead original battery and dropped it off at the UPS place for recycling on the way to the refuge. Another thing I no longer have to worry about.

A little sun is shining across the trees outside as I type on the couch. I hope that means the rain has moved off for the rest of the week. I took a looooong walk around the resort yesterday with my camera. I’ll post photos either here or on Flickr when I get a chance. I really should have done it yesterday while I had Internet access, but they’ll keep. I was too busy catching up with my blog-buddies.

We’re holding out the possibility to extend our stay here through the weekend. We’ll have to switch units, and it’s $120, but Lord knows Mrs. Fetched needs a break at least as much as I do. She’s flopping back and forth; currently in the “no” column but we’ll see how she feels in the morning. As the office is right across the parking lot from here, if she changes her mind I can have the paperwork signed before she has a chance to change it back!

Monday, September 11, 2006 3 comments

Escape from FAR Manor! (evening)

On the subject of what day it is: Keith Oibermann has said all that needs to be said. I shall otherwise remain silent.

Evening on the deck provides its own symphony. But at this time of day, the cosmic mixer turns down the nature track and turns up the sounds of humanity: the flat snapping as I open a beer, echoing off first the condos and then a hill across the lake; a car bringing four ladies (a little older than me, I think) from their day’s outing; the buzz and whirr of an air conditioner starting up. Insects chirp softly; you almost have to listen for them. The geese of morning are elsewhere — they spend much of their days near the picnic area, perhaps trying for a handout.

Sunlight sparkles on the lake’s ripples, nearly blinding before thin clouds come to the rescue. Once in a while, a breeze stirs the trees and shakes loose the occasional leaf. I catch the occasional whiff of a charcoal grill; someone in Mountain Shadows, perhaps.

The spider insists on building its web next to the swing. I knock it down in the morning, and it rebuilds by evening. Someone ought to put this spider in charge of New Orleans; it’s patient and persistent, and couldn’t do a worse job than the Bush league.

I wonder why I stayed at FAR Manor last night. I should have known how it would go: I got about six hours of sleep, then when I woke I was too keyed up to drop off again (I tried). At least I took care of a loose end from work; a customer wanted a table of LED patterns that indicated problems and what to do about them. I had it mostly ready on Thursday, but forgot about it in the panic mode of that last day at work. I emailed it and got a “just what I was looking for” back, so the day wasn’t a complete washout.

Mrs. Fetched was sort of jerking me around last night, though. First it was, “Are you going back?” then “Aren’t you staying?” Then when I agreed to stay, she was like, “You don’t have to stay.” Sheesh. Such is the challenge of taking a vacation a mere hour away from FAR Manor; the evil of the chicken houses has a gravitational field that extends so far. For now, though, I will enjoy not having the TV on as I digest my supper.

Sunday, September 10, 2006 2 comments

Escape from FAR Manor! Inside the resort

The condo I’m staying in is small, but has the essentials for a week: two bedrooms, a bath, full kitchen, and the living area shown here. I’ll be shuttling between here and FAR Manor until Wednesday, at which point Mrs. Fetched will join me until it’s time to check out on Friday.

Not caring much about TV, but wanting a little music, I grabbed some powered speakers and found a convenient place to put the iPod. You can pretty much hear it everywhere inside the unit without turning the volume up very much at all.

Plans are simple for tomorrow: bicycling in the morning, a swim in the afternoon, fix pasta in the evening. Tuesday will be a non-vacation day, although I volunteered to help Mrs. Fetched get the chicken houses ready for the catchers. I hope to get some video of the catching machine in action that night or Wednesday morning — it’s pretty hilarious, watching the chickens get rolled into the cage.

Mrs. Fetched plans are: stay up all night Tuesday while the catchers do their bit, then ride up to the condo with me and sleep most of the afternoon while I put a nice supper together.

AT&T Microwave facility

On GA115 between Dahlonega and Cleveland GA.

Saturday, September 09, 2006 3 comments

Oh deer!

Back at FAR Manor for a couple of hours. Daughter Dearest isn’t working today, so I came back early to get the vacation posts in. Be sure to come back in a couple of days; I’m going to add some pictures to those posts when I get a chance.

Talk about dodging a bullet. Just a few miles out of the resort, a doe popped into the road. I got on the brakes and she stepped up the boogie. Still on the brakes, thinking perhaps the first deer was already across (Mrs. Fetched will tell you “there’s always two”) and I was clear, a large but still-spotted fawn leaped out. I stood on the brakes, to no avail. I think God picked the thing up and threw it, because I didn’t hear the expected thump when I would have hit it. I saw it coming toward the windshield and thinking, “oh great,” but it cleared the windshield… and landed on the roof! THUMP THUMP-THUMP THUMP of it kicking around, trying to get some traction, then it rolled off. I looked in the rear-view mirror and it was going boogity-boogity back the way it came.

Thinking that must have been the first deer I saw running back, I stopped and got out to look. No fawn lying dead off the road, even in the woods a little ways. No damage to the front of the car, and just a few scratches on top. Some hair managed to cling to the car the rest of the 40 miles home. Looks like we both dodged a bullet.

The only other thing I can say is: Whew. Thank God.

Escape from FAR Manor! (morning on the deck, day 2)

The second day of vacation is starting out tons better than the first. For the first time in I don’t remember, I slept the entire night through. Ten hours. I think I mentioned I haven’t been sleeping well lately, or maybe it was to Mrs. Fetched.

Except for someone’s little yappy dog across the lake, it’s quiet out here on the deck. A flock of geese forage in the lawn below, grunting softly. Crickets and a jay off in the distance compete with the occasional whisper of car tires.

Beyond the next row of condos, the lake is still and almost glassy. Beyond the lake is Mountain Shadows, one of those places where you build a house around your camper. If I’d had it to do over, I would have bought one of those places instead of a timeshare: you can come up whenever and stay as long as you like; a few people live there year-round. Everyone is really friendly.

Anyway. Now that the yapper has shut up, the only sour note in this audio-visual symphony is a spider web that I somehow missed seeing when I was sitting next to it on the porch swing with my coffee. Whack that, have a bowl of cereal, and then… jog, walk, swim, read, write, whatever, until I pick up Daughter Dearest this afternoon.

Vacation reports may be a bit spotty after this. See you in a while, though.

Friday, September 08, 2006 No comments

Escape from FAR Manor! (Vacation, day 1)

Note: Depending on when I can find a tube (the Internet is a series of tubes, you know), these posts may appear later than their dates. I'm going to backdate them to the day I wrote them.

OMG. If all vacation days were like this one, I’d just work. As it is, I may end up being the exception and saying I wish I’d spent more time at the office. At least there’s a happy ending.

You know it’s not going to be a wonderful day when the phone rings at 5 a.m. and you find that the power is out. In the course of things, we found that the house phone was out as well, but the office phone that woke us up obviously wasn’t. But I digress. When I picked up the phone, the line was dead — in my sleep-deprived state, I forgot that phone has a flaky hook switch. I also didn’t catch details like the night light and clock-radio being dark. It took flipping two light switches, and nothing happening either time, for it to penetrate my thick skull.

“Power’s out,” I told Mrs. Fetched on the way to the bathroom. “Did you forget to pay the electric bill?” (Being half-asleep does little to stop my lame attempts at humor.)

“It is?” she mumbled.

In the bathroom, I could hear the alarm from the chicken houses… seems the situation was more widespread.

“That must have been Mom, then,” said Mrs. Fetched (a good bet; nobody else would call us at 5 a.m. unless it was a wrong number or a prank). “I need to go start the generator.” The chicken houses have backup power, which helps to keep them, you know, alive during a power failure.

I lay awake while she was gone, not from choice, until she returned. I knew that a major feed incident in #1 had all but buried a feed hopper, and I’d already volunteered to help shovel feed in the morning. So when she said she was going to start that at 6-ish, I said, “I’ll come. I’m not going to get back to sleep anyway.” A little breakfast, and away we went. After making a dent in the pile, we did the daily walk-through. That took us to about 10:30.

After a shower, I sat down to check email and what all my blog-buddies are up to, and my smellphone rang. My boss. “Those documents you uploaded to the intranet are coming back ‘File Not Found’.” Serves me right to trust anything built or maintained by IT — just because it worked that last X times doesn’t mean you should ever trust it to work this time. I checked my work email, found another person with the same problem, then turned off the VPN and emailed everyone from my home account. Lotus Farking Notes is still screwing up attachments, which it has been doing for the last few months now, and now the web-based client I’ve been using has been following suit at least for forwarded attachments. Words to live by: in a crisis, don’t depend on IT. Or: “IncompetenT” begins and ends with IT. (OK, rant off.)

Noonish, we went out to eat. On the road, Mrs. Fetched started in about me calling the insurance company about the load we’re taking about against my life insurance. That reminded me about other calls I wanted to make: activate my debit card, order a new battery for my iBook, and let the phone company know the business line was acting up again — the hum was loud enough Thursday night to kill the DSL.

By the time we got home, The Boy had returned from his job and I was about dead. He went with Mrs. Fetched to shovel feed, and I crashed for a couple of hours, waking up about an hour later than I wanted (and just as Mrs. Fetched returned).

Her Imperial Highness was put out that I hadn’t made my calls yet. I’d committed the Ultimate Sin of inconveniencing her: she expected me to take M.A.E. to work; it was 4 p.m. and I had to make the calls now. Never mind that the one she wanted was to Alabama and thus gave me an extra hour. I could have called from the car, but she was already in high dudgeon and even less inclined than usual to listen to reason. Fine: I used the time to make the calls (check’s in the mail, debit card active, battery ordered) and get stuff together (i.e. packing for vacation). The fourth call, to the phone company, never happened. Just to make sure, I took an old phone out to the interface box and plugged it in the test jack. No hum. Loosening and tightening the screw terminals cleared it all up.

What with one thing and another, I didn’t make good my escape from FAR Manor until about 6:30. I stopped in Cleveland to pick up some essentials, and learned that I was in a dry county. I thought such things no longer existed… but then I remembered the sorry excuse for a Pretendersent we have these days….

An hour on the road, a half hour spent grabbing groceries (and a fruitless search for beer), ten minutes to check in, twenty to unpack: at 8:30, I called home to let everyone knew all was well (except for the beer).

I fixed a sandwich for supper and entertained myself with some music out of my iBook and reading some ancient (older than me!) Bell System Practices about maintaining 197/198-type switches (those old step-by-step boogers — am I a geek or what?). Then… blessed sleep.

Two glorious weeks of vacation, the first two-week vacation of my working life. I’ll be bouncing back & forth for a few days to FAR Manor, but Mrs. Fetched will join me here for a couple of days starting Wednesday. Next Saturday, off to Solar’s for a week in Florida.

Monday, September 04, 2006 1 comment


The community yard sale was yesterday. We finally stopped talking about it and actually took a pile of stuff over there to sell. After booth costs, we cleared about $110 and came home with several empty boxes. Less stuff, more money — it’s a good thing. I might go next month with just some books and surplus electronic devices (old Macs, commercial-grade VCRs).

This afternoon, I crawled under the house and cut (and removed) a bunch of copper pipe while Mrs. Fetched and The Boy yanked out the old registers from the living room. I think I only left two registers uncut, and those are on opposite ends of the house (one in our bedroom and one across from the washer & dryer). Lots of copper and aluminum to take to the recyclers, and now we can remove the furniture and rent a sander.

A little later today, I split up the rest of the Romas my mother-in-law gave me and put them on the dehydrator. If I can get another 5 pounds or so, I should have enough dried tomatoes to get me through the winter.

And now you know why it’s called Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, September 03, 2006 1 comment

Hey Solar...

I seem to have lost your phone number. Gimme a call when you get this, OK?


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